Getting Active on the Lycian Coast, Southern Turkey

by Nick Corble

Southern Turkey’s Lycian Coast, also known as the Turquoise Coast, offers a perfect base for a week’s worth of not-too-strenuous adventure activities for a 20-year-old and his parents

Strangely distant whoops of delight suddenly filled the air above us, causing us to glance up to the heavens. A triangular rainbow-coloured sail floated silently by, two bodies balanced precariously from its frame. While one was clearly in control, the other was supported only by a stout-looking harness and a spirit of adventure. Paragliding was added to our list of things we could do during our week’s stay in Kas.

Getting The Right Mix

We’d wanted to treat our 20-year-old student son to a holiday together and had looked for something that would satisfy both his need for activity and adventure and our somewhat more mature tastes for good food, company and, maybe, even a bit of culture. After some research, we settled for Kas on Turkey’s Lycian coast and it ended up fitting the bill perfectly.

Overlooked by the Taurus mountains, Kas is a small harbour town which earns its living from fishing and tourism. From our point of view, one of its biggest advantages was its lack of sandy beaches, which meant it was less attractive to families with young children, pulling in more of a late teen-early 20s crowd, which would allow our son to feel more at home.

We reached the town via Dalaman airport, a good two-hour drive away along winding roads. While car hire was an option, we didn’t think we’d use a car much once we’d arrived, and while it was possible to get to Kas using a low-cost Dolmus bus, this would have meant stopping at every small village along the way.

One of the advantages of having Mum and Dad foot the bill was that we didn’t mind paying the £90 it cost to take a taxi. Although this may seem a lot, there were three of us and more people would make this option even more cost-efficient.  Besides, we didn’t mind, as with Turkey outside the Eurozone, the holiday ended up being very reasonable when seen in its entirety.

Mezes and Meeting People

We’d chosen the Hotel Club Phellos as our base, a perfectly reasonable three-star hotel which promotes itself as a spa, and has the advantage of having the best Hammam in town, including excellent massage, spa and indoor-pool facilities.

The thinking was we didn’t expect to be spending that much time around the pool (despite its added flume!) and at 120 Turkish Lira B&B (around £50 a night), for a double, it represented good value. The hotel was central to the heart of town and yet still enjoyed great views.

We particularly enjoyed sitting on the terrace for breakfast and surveying the town and harbour below. More upmarket hotels, such as the Barbarossa, where you might pay up to £80 for a double, were available; but these seemed to only want you on half board and we wanted to sample the local restaurants.

And there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, all offering similar food at comparable prices: mainly meze starters and some form of grilled meat or stew. We ate somewhere different every night but our favourite was the Calamar (Cumhuriyet Meydani 15/A, 242 836 2628), situated on the left corner from the statue of Araturk on the main square.

As the name suggests this was particularly good for seafood and we would recommend the seafood platter, which typically included calamari, sea bream and prawns on a bed of rocket, drizzled with olive oil and chilli. Expect to pay around 30 Turkish Lira (£12) a head, excluding drink. Alternatively, head for the Oba up the hill (Cukar Baglilar Caddesi, 242 836 1687), for good meze and freshly cooked daily specials.

Pastries were also a speciality, gorgeous honey-soaked treats designed to replace the calories expended during the day. One afternoon we ordered some with our coffee and waited over 20 minutes for them to arrive. It turned out the café owner had gone down the road to get exactly what we’d ordered rather than disappoint us.

After dinner there’s people-watching, browsing the shops or popping into a bar … or all three. Of the bars our favourite was the Hideaway Café and Bar (Cumhuriyet Caddesi 16/A, Kas, 242 836 3367) – appropriately named, as it’s tucked away down off Necipbey Street, about a minute away from the harbour in the centre of town.

The atmosphere here was laid-back, sitting in an openair courtyard surrounded by wild flowers listening to blues and rock into the small hours. There was even a dartboard. This was a good place to meet people and swap tips and experiences with like-minded souls over a few Efes beers. We tended to stay until around midnight and leave our son to stagger back at his leisure.

Getting Active

The main purpose of the holiday though was to get active and the area offered more than enough choice. Activities can be booked from any one of the various agencies lining the main streets, although some internet searching beforehand will ensure you don’t waste your first day sorting yourself out. Don’t worry about finding the agencies, their representatives will find you! Two in particular were Bougainville Travel (Cukurbagli 10, 242 836 3737, www.bougainville-turkey.com) and Dolce Vita (Cumhuriyet Meydani 7, 242 836 1610, www.dolcevitatravel.org).

Options include diving, canyoning, trekking along the Lycian Way, mountain biking down the Taurus Mountains or sea-kayaking to the sunken city of Kekova. We started by canoeing along the Xanthos River to the sea, a pleasant and reasonably demanding four hour paddle in either one or two man canoes. This trip started with a visit to the ancient Lycian city of Patara, thereby helping to fulfill our cultural remit, although the high point was a visit to the mud baths along the way.

Pull up your canoe and wallow like a hippo in warm glorious mud which dries instantly to your skin, requiring a dip in the refreshing cool river afterwards to clean it off. Along the way we spotted turtles resting on the banks of the river, which ends in a protected turtle nesting beach.

Highlights for us included the mountain biking, which starts by being taken to the top of the mountains and involves around 80 percent going downhill – my kind of biking – and the day-long trek in the mountains themselves. By way of contrast this was 80 percent uphill and took us to a great view point, earned through a hard but, ultimately, worth it nine-mile hike. Thankfully the agency’s minibus was tucked away just round the corner from the summit to take us back to Kas.

Prices for activities differ according to your negotiating skills and the time of year, as well as the type of activity. At the top end is paragliding, around £80 a head, followed by diving, with a full dive costing around £35 per person, including equipment rental, while others are typically around £25 a head, including transport and, if you’re lucky, a packed lunch.

Achieving the Right Balance

If all this sounds a little too active towards the end of the holiday, we took a snorkelling day trip on one of the local boats. You need to get a party of at least eight together for this, or simply ask around at the harbour to see if you can top up a party.

A trip will include three or four stops to enjoy the local coral and aquatic life, a BBQ lunch of chicken or swordfish, along with salads prepared onboard by the skipper’s wife, and plenty of opportunity to soak up the rays and a good book, all for around £20 a head. All in all, a good opportunity to allow the various knocks we’d gathered by then a chance to settle down.

The one thing we didn’t do in the end was the paragliding, deciding that it involved a lot of time to get to the starting point for a relatively short rush of adrenaline. After a week of activity it seemed a step too far and anyway it’s good to leave something for next time!

Nick Corble

The author of 16 books, the majority of which have had a travel focus, Nick has also featured on both BBC TV and radio and has contributed both articles and photographs to a range of websites. Up until now Nick has perhaps best known for his writing on the UK’s inland waterways. His first book chronicled a personal journey down the spine of the canal system on the eve of the millennium and he subsequently followed this up with a series of books on individual waterways published under the banner of the Tempus Towpath guides.  His definitive guide to the UK's Canals 'Britain's Canals: A Handbook' has recently been re-issued in full colour by Amberley Books.

There’s more to Nick than just canals however and he has also written a number of books of walks for Countryside Books as well as over 100 articles for national and regional titles ranging from The Times through county magazines to the consumer press, including Walk Magazine, official journal of the Ramblers Association and Cycle Magazine as well as glossy lifestyle titles.  For more on Nick's output go to www.nickcorble.co.uk.

Five years ago Nick sold his narrow boat and the free time this generated set him free to explore, with North Africa quickly becoming a favourite destination. He is now looking forward to heading a bit deeper into the continent. It’s a poor year when Nick doesn’t add at least two or three new countries to his list of lands visited and he makes it a rule never to go back to the same destination twice – life’s too short and there’s too much to see!